Learn to ski in Utah at any age, whether native or new

Oct 28, 2021, 5:04 PM | Updated: Dec 14, 2021, 1:13 pm
FILE: Very snowy day shooting photos with the Ski Utah athlete team at Beaver Mountain. Photo credi...
FILE: Very snowy day shooting photos with the Ski Utah athlete team at Beaver Mountain. Photo credit: Chris Pearson for Ski Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — New to Utah and hoping to learn to ski? Want to get in on the biggest non-secret secret in winter sports? In other words, would you like to find out what all the fuss over Utah’s snow and ski resorts is all about?

You’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered information here to get you on your way to falling in love with the greatest snow on Earth

Learn to ski in Utah: First things first

Physical readiness

Balance, leg and core strength are important aspects for a safe and fun experience on the slopes or the flats. You don’t necessarily need to be as fit as an Olympic skier to learn to ski in Utah, but having toned legs and core, and working on balance exercises will pay off.

Strong biceps and triceps will help when you push off on your ski poles. And as you get better, and want to ski longer, cardio endurance will make all the difference.

Downhill, cross country or adaptive?

Downhill (alpine)

downhill skiing in Utah

Photo credit: Chris Pearson/Ski Utah

Do you want the rush of winter air reddening your cheeks and to pick up a little speed? Downhill skiing might be for you. It’s also called alpine skiing.

Downhill skiers usually catch a ride on a chairlift from the base of a resort to the mid-point or even to the top of a mountain. Sometimes a helicopter takes them to the top.  In the off-season, some skiers will hike up a ski run hauling their equipment with them, and ski down.

Downhill skiers generally enjoy the benefit of pristine runs that have been mechanically groomed and prepared for a downhill skier’s safety and enjoyment in mind. (You’ve got to check out the machines that do this work – they’re incredible. Also, we’d argue that the drivers that run these machines are brave souls with stories to tell!)

Cross country (Nordic)

two people learn how to cross-country ski in Utah

Photo credit: Chris Pearson/Ski Utah

If you’re looking for a more mellow skiing adventure, cross-country skiing (Nordic) might be for you. You’ve got a little more freedom with cross-country skiing in that you don’t necessarily have to rely on a machine to groom your run.

There are designated areas for cross-country skiing where the land is generally flat.

Within this genre there are two variations: classic cross country, where your skis remain parallel and you create momentum by kicking and gliding; and skate skiing, in which the skier creates momentum by kicking out to the side much like a roller blader or ice skater.

Cross-country skis and boots are different than the equipment used by downhill skiers. We’ll get to those differences in a moment.

Adaptive skiing

adaptive skier

Photo credit: Dan Finn

Adaptive skiing has roots that reach to World War II and injured soldiers. Through the years, adaptive skiing has grown to offer the sport to others who are alternately abled and who have visual impairments. 

According to the National Ski Council Federation:

“The primary methods for adaptive skiing and riding are stand-up, sit-down, snowboarding and ski bike. Stand up skiing includes 2-track, 3-track and 4-track, while sit skiing includes bi-ski, dual-ski, and monoski.”

In Utah, the Beaver Mountain, Park City and Snowbird resorts offer options for adaptive skiing.


Lessons, yes or no?

So your friend has been skiing since she was 5 and says it’d be no problem for her to teach you the ropes. You can save money that way!

family on chair lift at Alta Ski Resort in Utah

Sheen family have a fun time in the Albion area of Alta Ski resort on a sunny winter day. Photo credit: Chris Pearson/Ski Utah

But being a terrific skier doesn’t make somebody a terrific (or even so-so) teacher. Teaching anything is a skill. A good teacher can read the students and see who needs what and how much. They know what questions to ask, and what the answers mean as far as your skill level, etc.

A teacher will know what to watch for and can assess if you are making progress or if you need one more day of instruction.

A good teacher will teach you how to fall while you learn to ski in Utah. That’s right! And how to safely get back up, too.

The point we’re trying to make? Take a lesson. Take several. Most resorts offer them in groups or one-on-one. They offer specialized training for adults and children. Some even offer lessons for women only.

And depending on the resort, you may be able to buy a package that includes an overnight stay, the cost to rent your equipment, your lessons and a lift pass.

Which leads us to our next point. 

The cost of skiing in Utah

Look, it’s not inexpensive to learn to ski in Utah. But as with so many things, if you can buy in bulk, you can save money.

Ski pass

After you’ve taken a lesson and decided that skiing is what you want to do for the rest of your days (it happens), buying a ski pass may be the best option for you. A yearly pass generally allows you to ski as many times as your heart desires and your thighs can handle in one season.

people learn to alpine ski in utah

Photo credit: Chris Pearson/Ski Utah

There’s something relatively new in the world of skiing, and that’s the ability to buy one pass and ski at multiple resorts, both in Utah and other ski destinations like California, Colorado, Vermont and even Canada. The full IKON pass offers unlimited access at 15 destinations and limited access at 29 others.

The EPIC pass offers similar destinations and multiple variations to the full pass.

If you don’t want to ski in 40 different places in one year, you can buy a season pass for a single Utah ski resort. You may find that Brighton Ski Resort is the only place you ever want to ski (it happens!) 

Resorts also offer passes for a certain number of days, for mid-week skiing only, for mornings only, for nights only and other similar distinctions.

And, finally, the day pass in which you walk up to the ticket counter with your boots, skis, and wallet at the ready. Sometimes it just works out that way. You’ve got to get on the mountain. This second. Sometimes you’re impulsive. With the day pass, you’re covered. 

Even day passes have many variations, including 12-hours of skiing, or four hours or nighttime.

Equipment and clothing

Whether you point your skis downhill or want to kick and slide and make parallel lines, you’ll need to rent or buy equipment. That includes the skis themselves, boots, bindings (if you’re buying your gear yourself), a helmet and poles. 

You’ll need some clothing too. Specialized gear that keeps you warm (but also lets you cool down) and can get wet but doesn’t stay wet, which include ski pants, gloves, gaters (to help prevent snow from flying into your boots or into your face), and the ski jacket.

Get professional help

This is another instance where your friend says ‘Hey I can help you out, don’t worry about renting skis.’ 

Wrong. Oh. So. Wrong. Go ahead and borrow the clothing, but let a professional help you determine the length of your skis and the setting of your bindings (your height, weight and skill level all come into play here). This is a safety feature that shouldn’t be overlooked: Let a professional set you up with the right skis, boots, and bindings. 

Links to set you on your path toward a lifetime of skiing enjoyment

This article from The Ski Source can help you take some first steps toward skiing fitness. However, please ask a doctor who you trust if you have any concerns about your abilities.

Need more convincing about taking a lesson? The good folks at Visit Utah make some great arguments.

Compare resorts and prices at the Ski Utah webpage.

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Learn to ski in Utah at any age, whether native or new